The Necessary Ultimate
(Written from Williams AZ, the gateway to the Grand Canyon, a word of hope and encouragement in light of recent events.)
So, if and when you pray the words, “God, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth and it is in heaven,” what exactly is it that you are asking of God?
I have been thinking about this the last few days in the light of the murder of George Floyd, as well as other protestations – some appropriate, and others seemingly perpetuating the same hate that caused Mr. Floyd’s killing. I’m terribly saddened and grieved. I want to say something on the side of being edifying. But I acknowledge my hesitancy, born of ignorance, lack of knowledge and experience. I also however, confess responsibility to speak and act, for reason of God’s unmerited grace and call to follow Him in Christ Jesus.
There are prejudicial, attitudinal and behavioral realities. Consider these pre-judgements you make of people: Do you cross the street to avoid a Black person coming your way? Do you look differently toward an Asian since Covid-19? Do you still suspect an Easterner since 9/11? Do you look at a police officer and think brutality? There are numerous personal prejudicial realities to consider. But there is also the Greater, the Ultimate that presses in to transform us and these awful realities.
It’s understandable the worry and tension gripping us these days. In addition to the most recent brutality and killing, and related events across the country, a virus has pressed people to live under conditions that most of us have not had to deal with before. Reaction and response to the virus has run the gamut from sane to insane. We honestly don’t know for how long this will continue. Terms and requirements keep changing. What we know--really know for sure, seems up for grabs. There is every evidence that we are a people becoming increasingly wearied, frightened, confused, arrogant, rebellious, and isolated.
I am aware that there have been incredible acts of human kindness along the way. Many have gone to great lengths—sacrificial lengths, to care, treat, manufacture, comfort, teach, encourage, entertain, protest, reconcile, restore, and lead in these days. But humanity’s dark side—humanity’s sinfulness is equally and horrifically evident, potentially overwhelming, and uncomfortably controlling.
All of which has pushed me to consider and declare how much any and all expressions of compassion, outrage, survival, hope and healing need—require, an ultimate context. Whether it’s confronting racism, ending violence, reconciling enemies, voicing views, manufacturing ventilators, continuing to wear masks, taking care of myself and/or family—whether it is any of these human behaviors, they all express some ultimate motivation and context. So, what is yours?
I think the necessary Ultimate is expressed in the prayerful words: “God, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” With those words, I yield me to God and God’s agenda. With those words I acknowledge, accept, and advocate for life and relationships with and from a Kingdom-of-God perspective. In other words, I’m speaking and thinking and doing from the context that someday God’s kingdom of a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, will stand before the throne and before the Lamb (Revelation 7:9). This Kingdom is where martyrs will be, where children will be, where every person of color and creed will be by the mercy and grace of God’s Son, Jesus. This Kingdom is eternal and thereby not subject to decay, disease, despair, division, or destruction. This Kingdom is ultimately just and peaceable, true and kind! This Kingdom is not of me, by me, or for me, but is of God, by God, for God’s creatures.
But you say, “that is a long way off; we are so far from it.” O, but it is not a long way off! We are not far from it! God’s kingdom has come near in the person and work of Jesus, the Christ. And, this kingdom of God is still coming to eventual completion. This kingdom still breaks into human life and chaos of every kind, which is why we can and must keep praying “God, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
God means for your moments and mine, now and every day, to be lived in the light of God’s kingdom! Our failures, prejudice, ignorance, complicity, arrogance, hopelessness—our everything is not singly on us to fix and make work right. Today, God’s kingdom is in-breaking! The reality of God’s in-breaking kingdom is the ground by which truth and justice, hope and peace enter into our life-sphere to make us and others new, to heal wounds, to transform people and societal systems to be new and life-giving, in contrast to mean, arrogant, oppressive, and life-taking. This is how humility replaces pride, and forgiveness conquers guilt, and kindness wins out over harsh talk/tweets, and unity beats division, and mercy triumphs over judgement, and tranquility overcomes violence.
I can’t and am not able by myself, to consistently self-produce and do the good and right things required of me. But I will and I encourage you to sincerely and continuously pray and behave on the basis of this necessary petition of The Lord’s Prayer: “God, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Put your faith in the one in whom God's kingdom has already come, Jesus the Christ. Keep trusting God to bring it to completion. And in the meantime, may our words and deeds express the Ultimate of God’s Kingdom come in Jesus and still coming!
and the journey continues... Pastor Jim